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The other day, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a little boy who may have been about four years old, with blue shorts and a little striped tee shirt. He was running along the pavement with all his energy; his joy, excitement and anticipation were bursting out from him. I had no idea where he was going; perhaps to see a friend, maybe he was running home. It reminded me of a day in my childhood when off to see my grandmother, who lived around the corner, I took my red tricycle from the coal shed and pedalled off as fast as I could, head down watching my feet whirr around full of the same excitement, joy and anticipation. Now at four months neither the little running boy nor I have any real idea of possible futures and, for the most part, we expect things to be good and so we go joyfully everywhere.
I am not sure that the English word “faith” quite captures this feeling at all. Somehow, it is a closed word, FAI-TH and this is a pity because it colours our approach. Our study and explanations are wordy and heavy: “Now faith is the assurance of things hopes for, for the conviction of things not seen,” as an example from our reading from Hebrews. Not that there is anything wrong with this as a definition but it is not redolent is it of Jesus’ “Come to me as little children.” So I prefer the French word “Foi” with its open sound a word leading to freedom, expectation and joy.
Standing one day at a baggage carousel, with a work colleague after a long business trip, waiting for our luggage, she suddenly said to me “I wish I had your faith.” It took me a little while to work out that she was not talking about the likely or unlikely arrival of her bags of which in my opinion she always had too many but about something deeper. How to explain to her that faith is not wrapped up like that, a package defined that you either have or have not but rather is something that suffuses your whole being.
True, along life’s journeys there are knocks and bumps that affect us, so that the uninhibited thrill of the little boy in the shorts and tee shirt may likely be tempered with a more cautious approach. My tricycle with its solid tyres, I recall, was pedalled head down into collision with a parked car; grazed knees and a return home for maternal treatment was the result of that excursion.
In our English Bible, the chapter from Hebrews that we heard this morning is headed “The meaning of faith.” but in my French Bible, the heading is “la foi perseverante”: faith persevering.
So let us get back on the tricycle (keeping our head up of course) and go forward with all the energy excitement and enthusiasm of true faith bursting out of us.